A Simple, Yet Sophisticated French Dessert

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dorette-with-w-f-oven_smallDorette Snover is a chef, author and the owner of C’est si Bon cooking school who teaches locally and leads tours to France.

“I’ve also seen these delightful little French cakes, made famous by Marcel Proust, referred to as noisette shells. One option is to dip the madeleines in chocolate and sandwich two madeleines together with a bit of buttercream frosting.”

Photo by Briana Brough

Madeleines with Fennel Sea Sugar Glaze

For the madeleines:
½ lb. (2 sticks) unsalted butter
4 eggs
pinch salt
1 cup sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup whole natural almonds (optional)
1 tsp. vanilla
grated zest of 2 lemons

For the fennel sea sugar glaze:
½ tsp. crushed sea salt
½ tsp. crushed fennel seeds
1/3 cup granulated sugar

Extra butter and flour for preparing the madeleine molds

  1. Completely butter and flour the madeleine molds. (This recipe makes 2 dozen large madeleines.) If baking immediately after mixing, heat the oven to 375 degrees. (Another option is to make the batter as directed then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate up to four days, then follow the baking instructions.)
  2. Heat the butter over medium-high heat in a heavy bottomed saucepot. Wait until the foam rises, then stir the butter. Watch the foam rise and stir again – you should see tiny browned bits of milk solids at the bottom of the pan. If not, keep cooking until you smell the marvelous aroma of browned butter, or beurre noisette, as the French say. It should have a medium caramel color. Strain the butter through a fine wire strainer layered with a paper towel into a medium bowl. Cool to room temperature.
  3. Combine eggs, salt and sugar in a mixing bowl. Mix by hand or use the paddle attachment on your mixer until the sugar is well dissolved and the eggs and sugar have formed yellow ribbons.
  4. If using nuts, process the flour and the almonds until finely ground. Add in the flour gradually. Mix well, but do not overwork.
  5. Pour in the cooled butter and mix on low speed (or with your fork at medium) until just blended. Add in vanilla and lemon zest. Do not overmix. When ready to bake, position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.
  6. Fill each mold almost full with the batter. Bake until the cookies are lightly browned, about 13-15 minutes.
  7. While madeleines bake, make the fennel sea sugar glaze by crushing the fennel and sea salt in a mortar and pestle. (You can also put fennel and sea salt in a resealable bag and crush it with something sturdy like the bottom of a mug.) Mix in the sugar and taste. Adjust with more sugar or salt to suit your preference.
  8. Remove cakes from oven and use a sharp little knife to unmold them onto a baking sheet. While they are warm, spoon the sugar glaze over them – they’ll form a slightly hard crunchy glaze from the heat and sugar. Cool on wire racks.

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